Bar/Bat Mitzvah Preparation


Compiled by our former Student Rabbi Asher Gottesfeld Knight
and the
Temple Shalom Ritual Committee




Letter from Temple Shalom

A History of the Bar/Bat Mitzvah

Keeping the Bar & Bat Mitzvah in Perspective

Temple Shalom Requirements & Expectations

Temple Shalom B’Nai Mitzvah Regulations

Temple Shalom Financial Responsibilities

What Does a Bar/ Bat Mitzvah Do? 
What does the Parent Do? 

Else Can Participate in the Service?

Tzedakah Options

Guide to Meetings with the Rabbi

Siddur Explanations

B’nai Mitzvah Writing Assignments

· God Paragraph

· Prayer and Kavannah

· D’var Torah

Aliya Primer


· B’nai Mitzvah Cue Sheet

· Allocation of Honours

· Social Action Checklist

· Tutor Checklist


Dear Parents & B’nai Mitzvah Candidates,

While talking with the B’nai Mitzvah students in our religious school, we have learned that many of our students view their Bar or Bat Mitzvah as a single event, the emergence into Jewish adulthood. Indeed, from a halakhic perspective the Bar Mitzvah marks the age in which a boy may assume the responsibilities of Jewish adulthood. Bat Mitzvah is only observed by the Conservative, Reform and Reconstructionist movements. Yet, the B’nai Mitzvah is much more than a lifecycle doorway into adulthood.

Temple Shalom’s B’nai Mitzvah program encourages our students to continue in the Jewish tradition of establishing an ongoing dialogue with our sacred texts and our history while helping them to create a path for our collective future. Our students will have the opportunity to experience the joy and awe of leading our congregation in prayer and in the reading of Torah and the Haftarah. We ask our students to develop a lesson from their Torah portion that will teach the congregation and give the student the opportunity to reflect on their own lives in a Jewish context.

We require a great deal from our students. Our religious school, student rabbi, Temple Shalom staff, and Hebrew tutor’s will help to make sure that each of our students is successful. At the end of this process our students will know that they are capable of taking their place as an adult in the Jewish community. Likewise, our students will understand how much they are appreciated by their family and the Temple Shalom community.

We depend heavily on our families to support our students. The first step is the commitment to our religious school. Our school is very respectful of different learning styles and the needs of students. However, we need consistency in attendance at school and Shabbat services to support their learning. We are trying to build community with our children as we are trying to build community with our adults.
We are often asked if we have any “tricks of the trade” when it comes to learning the Hebrew prayers. We do! Practice makes perfect. Your B’nai Mitzvah student will be helped immensely if you attend our Friday evening services and you encourage practice at home. We try to teach our students that practicing prayer is like practicing an instrument or a sport. The more we practice the better we get. The better we get, the deeper our experience.

We look forward to working with you over the next year. Please do not hesitate to contact us if you have any questions.

A History of the Bar/Bat Mitzvah Ceremonies
Compiled by Bert Wagner

All societies determine a specific age that separates childhood from adulthood-the age when an individual assumes his or her religious and communal responsibilities to the society in which he or she lives. Like most traditions, the ceremonies connected with becoming a bar or bat mitzvah at age thirteen evolved over time. It has always been viewed as one moment in the process of spiritual growth and commitment to the Jewish people.

The origin of becoming a bar mitzvah at thirteen years plus one day for boys and a bat mitzvah at twelve years plus one day for girls has several origins. The Talmud records that during the time of the Second Temple (520 b.c.e.-70 c.e.), it was traditional for Sages to bless a child who had completed his first fast day at the age of twelve or thirteen. In Pirkei Avot (“Ethics of the Fathers,” second century c.e.) it is written, “At thirteen one is ready to do mitzvot.” By the time the Talmud was completed in the sixth century c.e., boys of thirteen years plus one day had assumed full responsibility for performing the mitzvot, hence the term bar mitzvah, “son of the commandment.” This also had legal ramifications: These boys were now counted in a minyan and could act as witnesses. There was no formal rite, only a public blessing by the father stating that he was no longer responsible for the sins of the son.

The earliest bar mitzvah ceremony consisted of blessing and reading the last section of the weekly portion (parasha) of the Torah, the maftir, meaning the extra reading, since the boy was not a bar mitzvah until after the service, and reading the haftarah portion. The most important part of the rite was a d’rashah or d’var Torah, a short teaching on the Torah or haftarah portion. Since the bar mitzvah was assuming adult religious responsibilities, he was expected to show his understanding of those responsibilities to his family and, more importantly, to the community. Even today, the bar mitzvah ceremony is essentially the same as it originally was, and it wasn’t until the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries that we find records of a bar mitzvah being invited to lead part of the worship service.

A public ceremony in celebration of a girl becoming a bat mitzvah, “daughter of the commandment,” did not come into formal being in North America until 1922. Dr. Judith Kaplan-Eisenstein, the daughter of Rabbi Mordecai Kaplan, the founder of Reconstructionist Judaism, blessed and read the Torah portion from a book “at a respectable distance” from the Torah scroll. The regular celebration of girls becoming b’not mitzvah came into prominence in Reform congregations particularly in the second half of the 20th century and is generally identical in form to the celebration of a bar mitzvah.

It should be noted that the rite of confirmation originated in the Reform Movement in Germany in 1810 and included girls in 1817. Since it was felt that a thirteen-year-old was too young to fully understand the precepts of Judaism, the celebration of a boy becoming a bar mitzvah was dropped in favor of confirmation, which was held at age sixteen or seventeen because that was deemed a more mature and appropriate age to assume the responsibilities of Judaism. Today, most Reform congregations hold both ceremonies.

Historically, all joyous occasions were celebrated in some manner, and becoming a bar/bat mitzvah was no exception. However, unlike weddings at which we are commanded to rejoice with bride and groom, the bar mitzvah has no such mandate. In early years the celebrations varied from a simple Kiddush of wine, brandy, and cake following the service to more elaborate meals for family and friends. The Rabbis urged families not to have elaborate celebrations and always to provide for the poor in order to fulfill the mitzvah. The d’rashah was delivered by the bar mitzvah some time during the celebration in order to emphasize its religious aspects. Gifts were generally limited to books, or religious items, or “sermon gifts,” which were small amounts of money given as thanks for the sermonette. Among Moroccan Jews, this money was given to the boy’s teacher.

Historically, bar/bat mitzvah has been viewed as a first step in a young person’s acceptance of the obligations to family and community as a responsible Jew. It was and should continue to be the beginning of a lifetime of the performance of mitzvot, study, prayer, and a commitment to share the destiny of the Jewish people.



(From the Bar and Bat Mitzvah Handbook: A Manual for Parent and Student, Temple Ner Tamid, Bloomfield, NJ)

· Bar/Bat Mitzvah Is about the Acceptance of Responsibility. In the final analysis, this is the bottom line of becoming a bar and bat mitzvah. It’s not about acquiring the skill of k’riah,-“the reading of the Torah.” Rather, it’s about acquiring the skill of responding to a challenge: a mitzvah. This is how Judaism defines maturity.

· The Torah Is the Center of Judaism. Everything we do as Jews, everything we believe, everything we value revolves around the Torah. The Torah is the testimony of our people’s encounter with God. And however you interpret those events in the wilderness of Sinai some three millennia ago, what cannot be dismissed is the sacredness with which our ancestors have embraced this legacy. This is why the first mitzvah we expect our children to fulfill is to stand to read the Torah.

· Bar/Bat Mitzvah Is a Community Observance. It is not by coincidence that we choose to hold this initiation ceremony in public. To be a Jew means to live within a covenantal relationship-not only with God but with other Jews as well. Bar/bat mitzvah marks the entry of the child as a full-fledged member of the community. The awarding of an aliyah, (“being called to the Torah”), is a gift of the Jewish people. For this reason, the marking of the child’s coming of age takes place in the synagogue-the communal home.

· The Bar/Bat Mitzvah Ceremony Is Not a Performance: It’s a Celebration. The synagogue is not a theater, and the bimah is not a stage, and the congregation is not an audience. More to the point, the only mistake one can make at a bar/bat mitzvah is to lose sight of this truth.

· Try to Think of the Reception That Follows Not As a Separate Event but As a Continuation of the Celebration. In fact, Judaism has a formal name for the meal after a bar/bat mitzvah: It is a s’udat mitzvah. This meal is in honor of the performance of a mitzvah. It, too, is a sacred gathering. This is not to say that it must be solemn; it is to say, however, that the spirit of the morning’s celebration should be perpetuated through the performance of mitzvot. The recitation of the blessings and the setting aside of a portion of one’s bounty for the poor demonstrate that the morning’s celebration was not an isolated event but a standard from which to follow.

· The Meaning of Becoming a Bar/Bat Mitzvah Is Enduring Only If It Takes Place within a Context of Continued Jewish Growth. Being a bat or bar mitzvah is not the experience of a lifetime. It is a lifetime experience-a state of being that remains with us throughout our lives. Indeed, the true measure of performance comes not on the day one becomes a bat or bar mitzvah but in the days that follow. In other words, becoming a bar or bat mitzvah should be thought of as a Jewish “commencement,” marking not an end point but a beginning-a beginning of a lifetime of mitzvot, a beginning of a lifetime of learning. As such, it is our firm belief that the bar/bat mitzvah celebration is validated and enhanced by a commitment to continue religious education to confirmation.

Temple Shalom’s Requirements and Expectations
Eligibility Requirements

Any Jew over the age of 12 ½ years (male or female), meeting the specific requirements listed below is acceptable for a Bar or Bat Mitzvah. Everything which is considered right and proper for a Bar Mitzvah is deemed to be right and proper for a Bat Mitzvah.

The family of the Bar/Bat Mitzvah must be members in good standing of Temple Shalom for three years including the year of the Bar/Bat Mitzvah ceremony.This does not apply in cases of families new to Winnipeg who have been affiliated with another congregation before moving. This requirement can also be waived in cases of families who have recently immigrated to Canada. In these cases, the expectation that the child will continue through confirmation remains

The Bar/Bat Mitzvah must have both religious education and experience in Reform Judaism, and a technical proficiency in liturgical Hebrew. In order to satisfy these requirements, all Bar/Bat Mitzvah candidates must have the equivalent of three years of education at the Temple Shalom Religious School including the Bar/Bat Mitzvah year. The School Committee and the Rabbi and/or the Ritual Committee will determine equivalency of other education programs. Those children determined to have an equivalent education are required to attend Temple Shalom

Religious School for that portion of the program which focuses on Synagogue Skills, liturgy, torah commentary, and Reform Judaism (Sunday mornings), for a minimum of one year, during the year of their ceremonies. This enables these children to become more familiar with the Reform Service, and enables them to become a part of the Temple Shalom community.

The Bar/Bat Mitzvah must participate in an approved Social Action Project.

In order to put concepts of living Jewishly learned in Ketah Zeyin into practice, Bar/Bat students will participate in Tikkun Olam. This will take the form of an individual social action project which will involve the student regularly for an extended time (usually several months). Students may also be involved in one or more class mitzvah projects.

Temple Shalom B’Nai Mitzvah Regulations

Regulations Regarding Preparation

The Bar/Bat Mitzvah families must meet as a group for a discussion with the (Student)Rabbi prior to the ceremony.

The Bar/Bat Mitzvah candidate, with at least one parent, is required to attend at least 10 (ten) Shabbat services at Temple Shalom in the year prior to the ceremony. Candidates and their parent(s) must sign the attendance book and check in at each service they attend.

The Bar/Bat Mitzvah and his/her family will meet regularly with the (Student)Rabbi and/or other synagogue representatives, as required, throughout the year preceding the ceremony. The precise role of the child and participation of other family members within the service will be decided upon at these meetings.

The family is expected to use Temple Shalom’s approved Bar/Bat Mitzvah ‘tutor’ (this may be the Rabbi, the Cantor or another appropriately knowledgeable individual chosen by the Temple). The family must receive approval for alternative instruction from the (Student)Rabbi and/or Ritual Committee. In that case, the ‘tutor’ must provide progress reports to the (Student)Rabbi and /or Ritual Committee at least bimonthly.

Regulations Concerning the Bar/Bat Mitzvah Ceremony

The (Student)Rabbi and/or Ritual Committee is the primary contact for the scheduling and arrangements pertaining to all Bar/Bar Mitzvah ceremonies. Bar/Bat Mitzvah ceremonies are normally held on Saturday mornings. Friday evening, Havdallah, or Minchah ceremonies may also be considered.

The Bar/Bat Mitzvah’s role during the service includes (at a minimum):
1. Blessing and reading part of the week’s portion from the Torah scroll
2. Blessing and reading all or part of the weekly Haftarah portion
3. Delivering a ‘speech’ (teaching) which relates to the Torah and/or Haftarah portion.
4. With the agreement of the (Student)Rabbi and/or Ritual Committee, the Bar/Bat Mitzvah (and others at the service) may also read other prayers or selections during the service.

· Flexible participation will be arranged in order to insure that candidates with special needs have the opportunity for a meaningful and appropriate ceremony.


· There must be a rehearsal of all people immediately involved in the Bar/Bat Mitzvah ceremony at a time agreed to by the (Student)Rabbi and/or Ritual Committee and the family.

· In keeping with Reform Jewish custom, there are normally 3 aliyot called to bless the Torah including the Bar/Bat Mitzvah. It is customary that the other 2 be given to parents, grandparents, siblings or other persons very close to the Bar/Bat Mitzvah. More than one person can be called at the same time (e.g., mother and father, all grandparents…).

· At the ceremony, the wearing of tallit (prayer shawls) and kippot (head coverings) is optional.

· Flowers may be purchased by the family to enhance the beauty of the Sanctuary.

· Photographs may not be taken during the ceremony. Photographs may be taken prior to the service.

o Videotaping may be done during the ceremony, with a single stationary camera at an agreed upon location. Supplementary lights or other equipment are not allowed. The videographer must be unobtrusive throughout the whole ceremony.

· Officiating by a Rabbi/Lay Leader or Cantor not affiliated with Temple Shalom requires written approval of the Rabbi and/or Ritual Committee.

· In planning the Oneg or Kiddush following the ceremony, families should be aware that Temple Shalom does not have a kosher kitchen. It has a vegetarian/dairy (Milchig) kitchen and kosher or non-kosher caterers can be used to provide dairy meals for the function.

Temple Shalom Financial Responsibilities
Preparation for the Bar/Bat Mitzvah will be taught by a private tutor. The tutor’s fees are paid for by the family. All fees must be paid in full prior to the date of the Bar/Bat Mitzvah.
All synagogue fees, including Membership Fees, School Fees and the Building Fund must be paid 6 (six) months before the scheduled date of a Bar/Bat Mitzvah ceremony.

In the case where a family joins the congregation for less than 3 years before the Bar/Bat Mitzvah and does not fall into any of the “newcomer” categories, families will be expected to pay appropriate dues, the building fund and any supplemental fees required. They will also be required to provide (by post-dated cheques or credit card) the dues for the 2 years following the Bar/Bat Mitzvah

If payment is not received as scheduled, the Bar/Bat Mitzvah ceremony will be cancelled. The family will be notified of such a situation 4 (four) months prior to the scheduled Bar/Bat Mitzvah date.

Arrangements for payment of fees must be made with the Finance Committee if full payment is not possible by the required date.

Financial Responsibilities Associated with the Ceremony
$200.00 as a tax-deductible donation for a mitzvah.
$575.00 for the services of the Temple which include: the services of the Temple’s Rabbi or other Service Leader, the services of the Temple’s Cantorial Soloist, the use of the hall, the custodian, setting up of tables, tea, coffee, condiments, and the use of the kitchen including plates, cups, saucers, glasses, cutlery and serving pieces
$160.00 for security services
$200.00 refundable damage deposit

· The family is fully responsible for the covering the costs of any damage to the Temple or excess cleaning required as a result of the Bar/Bat.
· Any expenses associated with the use of visiting clergy will be the responsibility of the family

The family of the Bar/Bat Mitzvah is responsible for hosting, at the Temple, an Oneg Shabbat or Kiddush immediately following the religious ceremony. An open invitation will be placed in the Temple Shalom Bulletin inviting the Temple Shalom membership to the Bar/Bat Mitzvah ceremony and to the Oneg or Kiddush following. Expenses for non-invited guests are tax deductible if the following process is utilized:
Family itemizes the expenses for non-invited guests and submits bill to the Temple.
Temple reimburses family for expenses and family donates the reimbursement back to the Temple.
Temple issues tax receipts

(From the Bar and Bat Mitzvah Handbook: A Manual for Parent and Student, 
Temple Ner Tamid, Bloomfield, NJ)
There are basically four areas of participation for a bar/bat mitzvah at a Shabbat morning service: to be a sh’liach tzibur, “leader of worship;” to chant from the Torah and the haftarah; and to offer a d’var Torah or teaching on the week’s Torah portion.
Sh’liach Tzibur
One of the oldest and most prestigious roles in the synagogue is to be the sh’liach tzibur. Literally, the “representative of the community,” the sh’liach tzibur leads the congregation in prayer. Each bar/bat mitzvah student joins with the rabbi and cantor in this sacred role.
Most of the Hebrew prayers for the service have been learned in religious school. The rabbi and tutor will meet with each bar/bat mitzvah student prior to his or her b’nai mitzvah date to assess their proficiency. The basic Hebrew prayers expected of a bar/bat mitzvah are:
Sh’ma/V’ahavta/L’ma-an Tizk’ru
The student must also know the Torah and Haftarah blessings.
In the instance of a double b’nai mitzvah, the liturgy will be shared, and prayers will be added to accommodate two students. The specific Hebrew prayers that have to be additionally learned will be determined in consultation with the rabbi and tutor.
The K’riat Hatorah 
Each bar/bat mitzvah assumes the role of the baal(at) k’riah, “Torah reader,” for the day. This entails the learning of the selection from the week’s Torah portion, which is determined by the rabbi or tutor.
The Torah scroll is unvocalized (without the diacritical vowels or accents); moreover, students are normally expected to learn the trope or traditional cantillation melody. This skill is taught by the tutors in private tutoring sessions.
The bar/bat mitzvah will chant the Torah blessings only for the final aliyah. (The previous aliyot can be given to family members and friends.)
The Haftarah 
Following the reading of Torah, the bar/bat mitzvah student will chant the Haftarah or secondary biblical reading. Like the Torah reading, the Haftarah is usually chanted according to a specific melody to be learned from the tutor. The number of verses to be read will be determined by the rabbi and tutor.
The D’var Torah 
After the reading of Torah and Haftarah, the bar/bat mitzvah will deliver a brief (three to four minute) explanation of the week’s Torah portion (Torah teaching). This teaching will be prepared in consultation with the rabbi, tutor, or service leader.
(From the Bar and Bat Mitzvah Handbook: A Manual for Parent and Student, 
Temple Ner Tamid, Bloomfield, NJ)
· Participating in the ceremony of the handing down of the Torah (Jewish family members only).
· Having an aliyah, which involves reciting the Torah blessings (non-Jewish spouse may stand beside Jewish spouse doing the aliyah).
· Offering a prayer for the bar/bat mitzvah
· Other readings or prayers as may be decided upon in consultation with the rabbi or service leader.

Parent’s Blessing:

Rabbi Eliezer ben Rabbi Shimon said: A man is responsible for his son until the age of thirteen; thereafter he must say, {HEBREW} Blessed are You who has now freed me from the responsibility of the boy. -Midrash Genesis Rabbah 63:10

The tradition of the parent reciting a blessing upon a child’s coming of age is quite ancient. The above text indicates that it was ritualized and probably performed on the occasion of the child’s first aliyah. And although it might seem a bit inappropriate to recite a prayer freeing yourself from responsibility for your child, its underlying principle should be most instructive in preparing your remarks to your son or daughter. Indeed, in many ways the bar/bat mitzvah ceremony marks the individuation of the child: It is the commencement of a young person’s acceptance of adult responsibility and the freeing of the parent from that task.

The intent of the parental prayer in our service is to afford the mother and/or father the opportunity to publicly acknowledge-in a sacred setting-the joy and pride they feel at that moment. More important, however, they can also use that time to share their hopes and dreams for their child, particularly in relation to his or her being called to the Torah. In other words, it’s an opportunity to articulate the meaning of the moment.

This is a unique opportunity in the presence of your community as well as friends and family to ask for God’s blessings for your daughter or son. The gesture should be addressed to your child, not the congregation. Moreover, it should be directed toward the future. Where is it that you hope this moment will lead your child? What do you hope that he or she will take from it?

You may wish to use some of the examples provided below or write something entirely unique. In any event, we encourage you to prepare your remarks in advance. We also respectfully request that each parent’s remarks not exceed two minutes. When you are done, please feel free to hug your child. Crying is permitted.

Sample Prayers

Into our hands, O God, You have placed Your Torah, to be held high by parents and children and taught by one generation to the next.

Whatever has befallen us, our people have remained steadfast in loyalty to the Torah. It was carried into exile in the arms of parents that children might not be deprived of their birthright.

And now I pray that you, my child, will always be worthy of this inheritance. Take its teaching into your heart, and in turn pass it on to your children and those who come after you. May you be a faithful Jew, searching for wisdom and truth, working for justice and peace. Thus will you be among those who labor to bring nearer the day when God will be One and God’s name will be One.

Gates of Prayer
May your eyes sparkle with the light of Torah,
and your ears hear the music of its words.
May the space between each letter of the scrolls
bring warmth and comfort to your soul.
May the syllables draw holiness from your heart,
and may this holiness be gentle and soothing
to you and all God’s creatures.
May your study be passionate,
and meanings bear more meanings
until life arrays itself to you
as a dazzling wedding feast.
And may your conversation,
even of the commonplace,
be a blessing to all who listen to your words
and see the Torah glowing on your face.
Danny Siegel

Praised is God who has granted new responsibility to ____________ and to us. As ____________ begins to enjoy his/her new status among the Jewish people, a status that redefines our own role in his/her life, may God grant us the wisdom to continue as guides and counselors, allowing ____________ to live in accordance with the teachings of our Torah as a responsible Jewish adult.

Baruch Ata Adonai Eloheinu Melech ha-olam
(For a male) shep’tarani mei-ansho shelazeh.

(For a female) shep’tarani mei-anshah shelazoh.

Praised are You, Adonai our God, who rules the universe,
who has freed us of some responsibilities and conferred new ones upon ____________.

The Rabbinical Assembly

Who Else Can Participate in the Service? 
(From the Bar and Bat Mitzvah Handbook: A Manual for Parent and Student, 
Temple Ner Tamid, Bloomfield, NJ)
Honors are an important part of the bar/bat mitzvah ceremony. Family and friends who are given honors cease to be observers and become active participants. A variety of opportunities for family and friends exist within the Shabbat morning worship service.
Below is a basic guide to bar/bat mitzvah honors. Included in this B’nai Mitzvah handbook is an honors work sheet. If you have any questions, please speak to the rabbi or service leader.
Speaking Parts: Aliyot
An aliyah is the act of being called to the Torah. There are three parts to an aliyah, which can be given to one to three individuals:
The blessing before the reading of the Torah;
The English translation of the Hebrew Torah text; and
The blessing after the reading of the Torah.
The first two aliyot are for friends and family. The third aliyah is for the bar/bat mitzvah student.
Some families choose to have one person recite both blessings and another read the English translation; other families give each part to one person; still others have one person do all three parts. In short, there may be two to six people in the first two aliyot (one to three per aliyah), not including the parents.
Nonspeaking Parts 
When the ark is opened, the Torah is passed down from grandparent to parent to the bar/bat mitzvah. Other honors include ark openers, a Torah lifter, hagbaha, and a Torah dresser, g’lilah. (Please see the worksheet at the end of the book)
The Participation of Non-Jews 
We welcome the participation of non-Jewish family and friends. While there are some limitations, we very much want all of your family and guests to feel welcome.
Non-Jews may participate in any of the above honors except the handing down of the Torah through the generations, hagbah, the lifting up of the Torah, and the recitation of the Torah blessings.
The Involvement of Younger Siblings and Children
Siblings or other young children should be given age-appropriate honors, such as helping to dress the Torah or opening the ark. Siblings may also help in leading the Motzi, blessing over the challah, at the conclusion of the Kiddush. Older siblings can be given an aliyah.


Tzedakah is an obligation in Judaism: It involves giving of our time and or our money to others. Here is a list of things to do and organizations that your family might consider. If you don’t know about these organizations, check them out. It’s good to learn about the ways in which people are doing Tikkun Olam, “repairing the world.”
A more complete list of Winnipeg volunteer opportunities has been compiled by the Social Action committee of the Temple Shalom board. Our preference is that the B’nai Mitzvah student volunteers with an organization, group, or project rather than only donating money. The goal is to have a sustained Tzedakah project throughout the year. This is one of the ways in which you can show that you are taking on adult Jewish responsibilities
1. Give of Your Time:
a. Volunteer to work in the temple and/or the religious school
b. Visit the elderly-family members, a neighbor, or a nursing home
c. Work on an ecology project
d. Work in a soup kitchen
e. Collect old but usable clothes, toys, tapes, videos, etc., and give them to the needy and the homeless
f. Participate in a walk-a-thon for some cause
g. Work on a project for Habitat for Humanity
2. Give of Your Money:
a. Help the hungry, the poor, and the homeless
· Winnipeg Harvest: (Donate 3% of the cost of your celebration or a part of your bar/bat mitzvah gifts) 
Habitat for Humanity
· A local soup kitchen
· A local organization for the homeless and the poor.
b. Help support medical research and medical support groups
· Local hospitals or nationally recognized specialty hospitals
· Specific disease groups: Cancer Care, The Kidney Foundation, AIDS, MS, Heart
· Hadassah
c. Help other support groups
· For abused children and adults
· RAY for youth on the street
· O organizations dealing with substance abuse
d. Help Jewish Causes.
· The Fund for Reform Judaism
· WUPJ: World Union for Progressive Judaism
· Jewish National Fund (trees in Israel)
e. Help the Synagogue.
· Give to any of the tzedakah funds
· Sponsor a scholar-in-residence
· Create a new endowment fund
Guide to Meetings with the Rabbi
Ideally, each student will meet with the Rabbi six times before his/her ceremony. However, this may not always be possible. In that case, the rabbi will let the student know what will be addressed at each meeting.
Each meeting will normally be scheduled for about 45 minutes.
Session 1:
· At the Session: We will assess Hebrew capability and discuss the meaning of being a bar/bat mitzvah.

Session 2:
· To prepare before meeting:
o Read through the English translation of the Torah and Haftarah portions and come up with interesting issues and questions (at least 3 or 4). **SEE D’VAR TORAH PAGE**
o Answer God page. Come prepared to discuss what God is or is not to you.
· At the session: Decide what your “question” or issue is: Why this is your Torah portion. Discuss the language of Torah.
Session 3:
· Evaluate Hebrew
· Discuss the Service
· Begin Discussion of Kavannah for one prayer.
Session 4:
· To prepare before meeting:
o Kavannah for one prayer in the Service.
o Check progress on Torah portion/Haftarah portion.
o Check progress of Hebrew prayers.
Session 5:
· Continue shaping the commentary and begin to put it together.
· Check for progress on Torah portion/Haftarah portion, and prayers.
· Go over outline of Service.
Session 6:
· To prepare for session:
o Detailed outline of the service (fill out cue sheet).
o Final Draft of Torah Teaching
o Final Draft of God paragraph
o Final Kavannah
o Proficiency of Torah/Haftarah/Prayers
Session 7:
· Run through the service with Rabbi or Prayer Leader.
Siddur Explanations
Explanation of Service Structure
For generations we have struggled between keva and kavannah in our liturgy. Keva is the fixed order of the service that allows us to find familiarity from service to service and community with Jews praying in all corners of the world. Kavannah is the spontaneous and the creative thought, word, or movement that reminds us to put meaning into these prayers. In this service, you will be adding the kavannot.
The traditional service has five parts. The Warm-up opens our hearts and helps us prepare for prayer. The Shema and Her Blessings include our call to communal prayer and our lessons on walking in the world, celebrating the connectedness of creation. The Tefillah/Amidah gives us the opportunity to express our most personal prayers, deepening our connection to the wisdom of our tradition and reminding us to reach toward a time of peace and redemption for all creation. The Torah Service leads us in joyful learning, guided by the Torah and Haftarah portions. The Concluding Prayers prepare us use the peace we have found in praying with one another as a guide for the week to come, inspiring us to be more courageous, caring, and kind.

On the Prayers
The Order of the Service
The prayer book is called Siddur, which means “order.” Every service has an order.
Mah Tovu
The first line is a blessing of Bilaam (Bilam) from Numbers 24:5. Bilaam was hired by the King Balak to curse the people of Israel. Bilaam looked into the tents of the people of Israel and instead of a curse, he praised us with the words of “Mah Tovu”
The Kaddish
Kaddish comes from the Hebrew word for holiness. There are five variations to the Kaddish prayer. This Kaddish is called the “Hatzi Kaddish” or the half Kaddish because it omits one verse from the basic version. It is also called the “Readers Kaddish” because it is used to separate the different parts of the service and offer a holy transition. Because our connection with the Kaddish is with mourning, we include the Reader’s Kaddish at the beginning of our service to tell mourners that they are welcome here, to praise God and to separate the first part of the service from the second part, the Barchu.
The Shema and Its Blessings:
Jewish tradition emphasizes praying with a community. “One who prays with a congregation will have their prayer answered.” (Talmud). As the first word, Barchu, is spoken the leader slightly bows to gently call each congregant to prayer. At the word Baruch, the congregation bows to acknowledge and respond to the leader.
The first statement of the Shema is, “Shema, Israel, Adonai Eloheinu, Adonai echad,” is from Deuteronomy 6:4ff. The response to the first statement of the Shema is “Baruch Sheim kevod malchuto leolam vaed” Blessed is the God’s glorious kingdom forever and ever. This response originated in the days of the Temple. Only the High Priest was permitted to say God’s holy name (represented by the Hebrew letters Yud Hey Vav Hey), and only from within the Holy of Holies on the Day of Atonement. The congregation’s response to this most holy of utterance was “Baruch sheim kevod…”
Tradition calls us to remember Yetziat Mitzrayim – our going out from Egypt, in every service. We remember that we were slaves and know that until all people are free not one of us is completely free. Though we mourn for the suffering of the Egyptians and know that the journey ahead is long and difficult, we join together in celebrating of this precious moment of complete freedom. The wisdom of celebrating that moment has carried us through times of deep despair when a glimmer of hope came from remembering the miracle at the shores of the Sea of Reeds, when Miriam the prophetess took her timbrel in her hand and together with Moses, led the Israelites in song and dance.
This is the central part of the prayer service. Tefillah means “prayer.” This section has two other names: the Amidah (standing) because the prayer is said while standing, and Shmoneh Esrei (Eighteen) because it originally contained 18 blessings, (a nineteenth was added later, but the name was not changed). On Shabbat just seven blessings are said: three of praise, one for the Sabbath, and three of thanksgiving.
Aleinu (Adoration):
This prayer reminds us that we are no longer victims. We must be on guard to avoid becoming like those nations who oppress. We bend slightly our knees the word “korim” and bow at the word “u’mishtakhavim” in humility and gratitude as we learn from the lessons of our own history and commit ourselves to Tikkun Olam: the restoration of wholeness to our broken world.
Mourners Kaddish:
As all of our prayers, the Mourner’s Kaddish connects us with God. We rise together and say the same words that our people have said for their loved ones and for all those who have no one to say Kaddish for them, to continue the blessings of their lives: for the victims of the Holocaust, those who have died because of hunger and homelessness, those who have died from AIDS, and community members and friends who have died recently or at this time in seasons past.

Writing Assignments
for the Bar/Bat Mitzvah Student
1. The students are required to write a statement about what God means to them at this moment in their lives. Some students may choose to use this statement as an alternative reading for one of the prayers.
2. To encourage familiarity and meaning in the service, each student will be asked to choose his or her favorite (or most troublesome) prayer and write a kavannah for this prayer to be included in the text of the service.
3. Our experience has taught us that each student is assigned a Torah portion that has very important teachings that he or she is meant to receive. Our students will have the opportunity to write a commentary on these particular teachings, adding their voices to the commentators that have struggled with these same issues for generations. Most importantly, our students will then teach us how each portion is relevant to their lives and ours.
How To Select Kavannot: Principles And Practicalities
There are many ways to select readings (kavannot) for the service. However you do this selection, please keep in mind:
1. This is a worship service, so kavannot must add to the spirit of worship.
2. Try to honor family members and others by including them in the Torah Service (opening the ark, dressing and undressing the Torah, marching with the Torah, etc.) rather than by asking them to participate in the other parts of the service.
3. The Bar/Bat Mitzvah should conduct the entire service through the veAhavta. If other family members will be doing readings, please be certain that they come forward prior to the reading so that there are no delays in the service. Try to keep the number of readers to a minimum.
4. Potential sources of readings include the following:
a. Writings by the Bar/Bat Mitzvah or other family members;
b. Favorite poems or excerpts from books or stories that are relevant to the focus of the Torah/Haftarah portions or to the individual prayers;
c. Readings selected from previous services;
d. Suggested readings from friends and/or family members;
e. Responses from friends/family members to central question raised by Torah/Haftarah portion.

God Paragraph
You have probably noticed that your Torah and Haftarah portions and the prayer service are filled with “God” talk. For this experience to be meaningful it is important for you to search inside yourself and come to an understanding of what you believe “God” to be at this point in your life.
· There are no right or wrong ideas about God.
· Your ideas of God change as you grow and are challenged by life.
· Our name “Israel” comes from the biblical story of Jacob, who wrestled with God and earned the name Israel – “one who has struggled with God.”
Answer the following:
What does the word “God” mean to you?
How do you experience God’s presence in the world?
What inspires a sense of awe in you?

Prayer and Kavannah Writing
1. Read the English translations of the following Prayers: (Gates of Prayer for Shabbat- Green Booklet)
Bar’chu pg. 50
Yotzer (Creation) pg. 50
Ahava Rabah (Revelation) pg.51
Sh’ma/V’ahavta/L’ma-an Tizk’ru pg. 52-5)
Mi-Chamocha (pg. 54, translation on pg. 55)
Avot-Imahot (T’fillah)pg 56
G’vurot (God’s Power) (pg. 57)
K’dushah (Sanctification) pg. 58
V’shamru (The holiness of Shabbat) pg. 59
Hoda’ah (Thanksgiving) pg. 62
Birkat Shalom (Peace) pg. 63
Kadish Yatom (Mourner’s Kaddish) pg. 78
2. Choose a prayer from the list. Then, summarize the prayer into your own words:
3. Answer one or two of the following questions: What does the prayer mean to you? Why do you like it? Why is it important to you? What does it teach you?
4. Combine your answers to questions 2 and 3 and write a short paragraph.

Bar/Bat Mitzvah D’var Torah
A d’var Torah (literally, a “word of Torah,” (in Yiddish known as a vort) should never attempt to be anything more than the identification of a question about the Torah followed by a straightforward and simple answer. It is not a sermon or a term paper. It is nothing more and nothing less than a single idea based on the text of the Torah.
Part 1
There are two ways to look at the Torah portion:
You may choose to address the larger theme that runs throughout the text (e.g., talking about the concept of law for the portion that contains the Ten Commandments); or
You may choose to examine a single verse or even just a word in the Torah portion (e.g., What can we learn about the Binding of Isaac from the fact that at the end of the story Abraham returns alone?).
The first step then is to “identify” the question and/or the difficulty in the Torah portion. To do so, you should do the following:
a. Read the entire Torah portion in translation.
b. Read a summary of the Torah portion in translation
c. Try to summarize the portion aloud or in writing. (1 or 2 paragraphs)
d. Jot down the parts of the portion which you found interesting or confusing.
e. Write down any questions that you had as you read and reread the portion.
Part 2:
Discuss the portion with someone else who has read it such as your tutor, parent, religious school teacher or Rabbi. Ask them what they thought was the message of the portion and what questions it raised for them. Share your ideas and see their reactions.
Once you have done that, you need to consider how you would resolve the question or difficulty. What are your thoughts about it? What do you think is the way to read and understand the Torah? The wonderful thing about Torah study is that there are no wrong answers. The process of midrash is the combination of the text and the reader. Torah is only complete when we put ourselves, through our ideas and questions, into the text. This makes the Torah not just an ancient document but a living and never-ending source of Truth. Think of the Torah as a ma-ayan, a “well,” or a sha-ar, a “gateway,” to important ideas. What we want to hear are the ideas you have to offer about the Torah.
· If you are having difficulty, try to read some sources online or in various books. We have two-thousand years of biblical commentary to choose from!!
Part 3
The last part of the d’var Torah is applying the lessons of the Torah to our lives today. This part is especially powerful when you apply it to your life, particularly as a bat or bar mitzvah.
Try to find ideas that speak to your heart. Look for examples in your life and or in today’s world that illustrate your points. Maybe you have a favorite story about your sister or brother or one about a family relative — use those stories.
The three parts of the d’var then are:
· The introduction and identification of the question and/or the difficulty of the text;
· Your solution; and
· Applying the lesson (the solution) to our lives today.
1. Make an outline of the main ideas that you want to discuss and then go back and fill in details supporting your ideas. Use quotes from the sources that you studied and ideas and quotes from the people with whom you discussed your portion. Be sure to include your original ideas and interpretations too.
2. Discuss this outline with your tutor, Rabbi or parent and listen to their input and revise the outline.
3. Write your speech and turn it in to whoever reads it and gives you feedback.
4. Read into a tape recorder and then listen to yourself. Can you understand yourself?
5. Revise your speech and practice reading it aloud, slowly and clearly.
6. Find an audience (parents, siblings or friends will do) and give the speech, asking for their feedback on whether it was clear and easy to follow.
7. Refine and practice.

Please Note…
The d’var Torah is not a thank-you speech. It is a teaching. On this day, you are a teacher.
Also, use the form below to get started.
Here’s how to get started
My Torah portion is _________________________________
from the Book of ____________________________________
The section from my Torah portion from which I will be reading is about:
Three questions I have about my Torah portion are: (e.g., What doesn’t make sense?)
Possible answers to one of the above questions are:
Write about a situation in your own life that reminds you of your portion.

Teaching Torah by Sorel Goldberg Loeb and Barbara Binder Kadden, A.R.E. Publishing Company,Denver, Colorado 1997. This book has excellent summaries of each week’s portion followed by a selection of interpretive and explanatory material with questions for the reader. It also contains activities for analyzing the text, personalizing the text and suggestions for Bar/Bat Mitzvah projects.
B’shivtekha B’veitekha-When You Sit in Your House by Sharon Halper, Torah Aura Productions, California 1994. Designed for family education, this text includes a week by week study of the Torah portion including a multi-verse quote from the portion, short commentary and questions for the family members to share ways that they would have acted were they in the same situations as the Bible characters.
Zot ha-Torah: This is the Torah by Jane Ellen Golub and Joel Lurie Grishaver, Torah Aura Productions, California 1994. This book was developed for Bar/Bat Mitzvah students and contains a quote from each week’s Torah portion which is examined in depth. There is a focus on a mitzvah suggested by the portion which includes relevant do-able mitzvah projects.
Rashi: Rabbi Shlomo ben Yitzchak 1040-1105
The Pshat, please, just the facts. Plus a little midrash. What’s the problem?
Ramban: Rabbi Moshe ben Nachman 1195-1270
Spanish commentator and master of Kabbalah. “Ha-mei-vin.” Also proto-psychological
Abraham Ibn Ezra 1092/3-1167
Commentary and grammar. “I resided in that place as a stranger, wrote books, and revealed the secrets of knowledge.”
Sforno 1475-1550
Italian commentator. Respect for the pshat, reluctance to get into Kabbalah
Soncino Chumash
(called the “Hertz Chumash”) editor; Hertz (the English Brothers)
Soncino Chumash
(called :Cohen Chumash”) editor Cohen
The above two are different! Both dark blue, look the same at first glance,
Cohen smaller in page size and different commentators.
The ArtScroll Chumash (AKA Stone Chumash)
The traditional commentators, also some background notes.
Studies in Bereshit, Shemot, Vayikra, Bamidbar, Devarim (6 Vols.), by Nechama Leibowitz
Fabulous rendering of traditional commentators, arranged by parashah and by themes, everything translated into English.

Below are the basic fundamentals of being called to the Torah (aliyah, {HEBREW}) at Temple Shalom. Meaning to “go up” or “ascend,” aliyah also implies a spiritual ascent. An aliyah is considered to be one of the most sacred privileges in Judaism. Consequently, you must be Jewish and “of age” (i.e., a bar/bat mitzvah) to qualify for an aliyah. Indeed, the ceremony of bar/bat mitzvah is a celebration of a child’s first aliyah.
Hebrew Name
Proper form requires you to be called to the Torah by your Hebrew name. This includes not only your given name but the name(s) of your father and/or mother. The formula would thus be:

For men Ya’akov ben Avraham v’Sarah
For women Rachel bat Avraham v’Sarah

Although Hebrew names are the benchmark for this tradition, Yiddish names are also acceptable.
Going Up
When your name is called, go to the bimah, pulpit, and stand to the left of the reader. She or he will point to the place in the sefer Torah, scroll, where she or he is reading. Touch that spot with the tzitzit, fringes, of your tallit, prayer shawl, or the corner of your siddur, prayer book; and then kiss the tzitzit or the siddur. At this point the reader will close the scroll and some people, while reciting the b’rachah, blessing, choose to grasp the two wooden posts of the scroll.
The First Blessing
Below is the blessing recited in Hebrew prior to the reading of the Torah. You should recite the first line, wait for the congregation to respond with the second line, then repeat that second line, and read the rest of the first blessing.

Bar’chu et Adonai hame’vorach.
The congregation responds, Baruch Adonai ham’vorach l’olam va-ed.
Baruch Atah Adonai Eloheinu melech ha-olam
asher bachar banu mikol ha-amim
v’natan lanu et Torahto
Baruch Atah Adonai Notein ha Torah.
The congregation responds, Amen

Praise Adonai, the One to be praised. Praise Adonai, the One to be praised, forever. Praised are You, Adonai, our God, Ruler of the universe, who has chosen us from among the peoples and given us the Torah. Praised are You, Adonai, the Giver of the Torah.

The Torah Reading
Following the conclusion of the first b’rachah, the reader will read the selection from the Torah. When she or he is finished, she or he will indicate that the English translation of the Torah selection is to be read.
The English Translation
It is customary at Temple Shalom to offer the English translation of the Torah text. This reading can be read by the person who blesses the Torah or by an additional person. The reader of the translation does not have to be Jewish.
The Concluding Blessing
Following the translation of the Torah selection, the concluding b’rachah is offered. Again, the person offering the blessing will touch the place in the sefer Torah (scroll) with the tzitzit (fringes) of his or her tallit (prayer shawl) or the corner of his or her siddur (prayer book) and may choose to grasp the posts of the Torah scroll while reciting the blessing.

Baruch Atah Adonai Eloheinu melech ha-olam
Asher natan lanu Torat emet
V’chayei olam nata b’to cheinu.
Baruch Atah Adonai notein ha Torah.
The congregation responds, Amen
Praised are You, Adonai, our God, Ruler of the universe, who has given us the Torah of truth and implanted within us eternal life. Praised are You, Adonai, the Giver of Torah.

After the Concluding Blessing
Following the concluding b’rachah, the person(s) who was called to the Torah should now move to the reader’s right and remain there until the next aliyah is concluded. Then that person returns to his or her seat.







B’nai Mitzvah Cue Sheet

Allocation of Honours List

Social Action Checklist

Tutor Checklist




Shabbat Morning

Gates of Prayer Gender Neutral (Green Booklet)

Regular Service – No Additions


BM = B’nai Mitzvah SL = Service Leader CS = Cantorial Soloist / = and/or RR = Responsive Reading











A song without words


Read: “The synagogue…




Sing: Mah Tovu








Read: “Eternal one, You are….



Asks everyone to RISE




Chant: Chatzi Kaddish




Sing and Translate Barchu




Read Yotzer in Heb. or Eng.




RR: “Deep is Your love for…




Sing: Shema



Ask everyone to SIT




Chant: Veh-ahavta




RR: “Eternal truth it is that…




Sing Mi-Chamocha




Chant/Read: Tzur Yisrael



Ask everyone to RISE




Chant: Amidah/T’fillah




Chant: Amidah/T’fillah




Chant: Amidah/T’fillah




Chant: L’dor V’dor



Ask everyone to SIT




Sing: Kedushat Hayom




Read: “The people of Israel…




Read Together: “One God…




Sing: Yismechu




RR: “Eternal God…




Sing: Retzai




Read: “We gratefully….




Sing: Sim Shalom



Introduce Silent Prayer








Sing: Oseh Shalom/Yhiyu




Read: “There is none like…



Ask everyone to RISE




Read: “Source of mercy….



Open Ark




Sing: Havu Godel




Take The Torah from the Ark




Sing: Ki Mitzion/Beit Yakov/Shema/Gadlu/Lecha



Torah Passing




SL/BM & Family


Ask everyone to SIT



Reading Of The Torah



Torah Blessings

Family and BM

3 (2 Family 1 BM)


Torah Reading




Sing: V’zot Hatorah




Family or Friends

Lift the Torah



Family or Friends

Dress the Torah


Blessing before/after Haftarah



Haftarah Reading




Ask everyone to RISE




Sing: Y’hallelu/hodo al eretz




RR: “God’s Torah is perfect…




Sing: Ki-Lekach Tov/Etz Chaim



Ask everyone to SIT






Parents speak to BM



Rabbi or Service Leader speaks



Presentation of gift by Temple

Board Member


Sing” L’chi Lach



Sing: Youth Shall See Visions



Sing: B’Ni and Biti



Ask everyone to RISE




Chant: Aleiynu




Chant: Kaddish Yatom




Chant: Kiddush




Sing: Closing Song/Adon Olam










Please complete this form and bring it to the rehearsal.

P’tichah (Opening the ark) 1. _____________________ 2. ______________________________

Passing the Torah __________________________________________________


Hebrew Name(s)

English Name(s)








Hagbah (Lifting the Torah) _______________________________________


G’lilah (Dressing the Torah) _______________________________________


P’tichah (Opening the ark) 1. _____________________ 2. ______________________________

Additional Readers -Name

Special Reading

Page # if in

Gates of Prayer


Ushers 1. ______________________________ 2. ____________________________________

Social Action Sheet













Tutor Checklist


** Please fill out this form after every Bar/Bat Mitzvah Tutoring Session. Place a check mark


if you worked on Shabbat prayers, Torah, or Haftarah. Please note the assignment for next session

Date of Bar/Bat:

and any comments/notes that would help the rabbi.


Chanting Torah





Chanting Haftarah


Tutor Name





Assignment for Next Session